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'Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin,' Rom. iv. 7, 8.
Ir is thus, says the apostle, that David describeth the blessedness of the man unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works.' On the occasion upon which the psalmist had tasted the blessedness he describes, righteousness of his own he had none to plead; for he had, in the matter of Uriah, committed an act the most unrighteous, involving a complication of the foulest crimes. When the prophet Nathan represented to him the character of his offence by a parable, he was slow in recognising his own image in the portraiture; and hence it has been supposed that up to the moment of his conviction by that word of God, he had been careless, hardened, and utterly dead to feeling. But he himself informs us, in the thirty-second psalm, (from which the apostle's quotation is taken) that the case with him had been far otherwise. He kept silence, but conscience spake. The remorse which it excited he hoped might disappear through the influence of time and change; and persisting in the excuse or palliation of his guilt, he would neither confess it before God, nor condemn it be
fore men. But this vain struggle to repress and conceal his mental anguish, not only aggravated the torment, but affected his bodily health. My bones waxed old-my moisture was turned into the drought of summer.' It was in this condition that the prophet's message found him, and at last drew from him the humble acknowledgment, I have sinned against the Lord.' And Nathan said unto David, 'The Lord also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.' And David, filled with emotions of contrition and gratitude, which his bursting, broken heart could not contain, hastened to his chamber, and falling upon his knees, he gave vent to his feelings in this fervid acknowledgment, O the blessednesses of him whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.'
forgivenesses;' and this is his name and this his memorial throughout all generations: "The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering and abundant in goodness and truth; keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin.' Yet he reserves to himself the prerogative of dispensing his pardons according to the wise method of his own grace, namely, by Christ Jesus the Mediator, in whom alone we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins. When Jesus was on earth, he had full power to remit sin, and if he is exalted to heaven, it is as a Prince to give repentance, and as a Saviour to grant remission; and through this man is preached unto us the forgiveness of sins.'
The forgiveness extended to the Christian is most comprehensive and complete. It embraces guilt of every kind, by whatever variety of phrase designated-sin, iniquity, trespass, transgression.' It includes all sins, however numerousthe God of mercy abundantly pardons.' It excludes not guilt the heaviest and most aggravated. Pardon my iniquity, for it is great.' And the act of forgiveness once passed is never more recalled. The sin is said to be covered, blotted out, cast into the depths of the sea, never to be found by man, never to be remembered by God, not once to be mentioned to the offender.
Now can such an one fail to be blessed? Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her iniquity is pardoned; for she hath received of the Lord's hand double for all her sins.'
What man is happy if it be not the man whose iniquities are forgiven? Is it a blessed thing to be freed from condemnation, to be delivered from wrath, to be quiet from fear of evil?—instead of having sin imputed, to have righteousness reckoned unto us?-to know that God, from being our greatest foe, has become our greatest friend? to know that the very power and purity of Jehovah, which formerly frowned upon us, now smile upon us in love, and are engaged on our behalf? to know that we have now in enjoyment a peace which passeth all understandForgiveness of sin is the first in order of new-ing, and in prospect a happiness superior to the covenant blessings; for so long as a man's guilt is uncancelled, God is his enemy, and he cannot know peace. But the youngest believer has forgiveness upon the first act of faith. I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake.' It has its source in the infinite mercy and rich grace of Jehovah. He is a 'God ready to forgive;'-a 'God of pardons, as the original bears; to him belong mercies and
joys of paradise, equal to the glory of angels?— all that blessedness belongs to the pardoned penitent. Being justified by faith we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom also we have access by faith into the grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. We joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.' The man whose sin is covered,' obtains
assistance and acceptance in all duties; and in his | which the authority and dignity of such a mesmercies and trials, his comforts and crosses, he has senger demand. With what scrupulous fidelity
and self-sacrificing devotedness did he fulfil his office! 'There cometh one after me who is mightier than I-who is preferred before me— who must increase, whilst I must decrease.' And when he has at last found the Christ in very deed, he cries out with joy, like one who has suddenly met with what he had been eagerly in quest of: Behold him! behold him! the Mercy promised to the fathers! the Desire of all nations! the long-promised and long-expected Messiah!'
the blessing which enriches without sorrow. Need such a man dread adversity? His troubles, indeed, may be many, constant, aggravated; but they shall not really injure, they shall rather benefit him, for they too are 'blessings in disguise.' He shall be sustained under them, sanctified through them, and in due time delivered out of them all. Every loss shall conduce to his gain; every suffering shall turn to his salvation; every event shall work for his good. Need he fear death? The sting of death was sin, but forgiveness has extracted 'Behold the Lamb of God!' With these few the poisoned dart, and converted the curse into a words the Baptist annihilates all the sacrifices blessing? Need he shudder when he looks into and expiations of the law; he declares that in the grave? But it is no longer the condemned cell Christ the victim, and in none else, resides the where the criminal passes the night before being merit and efficacy, which can alone take away led forth to punishment. It is rather the cham- the burden of sin's guilt from the conscience, or ber of repose, where the invited welcome guest is the stain of sin's pollution from the heart. It is as attired and adorned, previously to his being if he had said: 'All the sacrificial lambs that you ushered into the presence of the great King. have ever seen or read of till now-whether Need he be apprehensive of the judgment of the that which was substituted in the room of Isaac, last day, with its accompanying terrors-the open- or those whose blood was sprinkled on the lintels ing heavens, the rending earth, the dissolving and door-posts of our fathers in Egypt, or those elements—the wreck of nature, and the crash which in commemoration of that event we slaughof worlds?' That day will but proclaim his ter every year at the passover, or those which, acquittal; it is the day of his complete redemp-morning and evening, are presented as burnt-offertion. Need he shrink from the contemplation ings upon the altar-all are but types, emblems, of eternity? It will but multiply and perpetuate shadows. None of them is really the Lamb his joys. whose blood we require to wash away sin. He is the true Lamb whom you now behold—the substance, the body, the fullness, the antitype of all the others, who were but figurative images of him. Under that mean outward form, behold the Messiah who is to be cut off but not for himself. He is the Lamb of God-the Lamb separated and sent, furnished and fitted, appointed and approved by God—the Lamb whom God demands, and by whom alone God will be appeased-the Lamb consecrated to God, and who, in God's purpose and promise, was slain before the foundation of the world.'
Yet in order to the enjoyment of the blessing of pardon, confession of sin, and supplication for mercy are absolutely required. I said I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee in a time when thou mayest be found.' 'If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
'Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away
The figure denotes gentleness and patience, for a lamb allows itself to be led, tied, shorn, slaughtered without resistance, and even without complaint. It thus becomes a fit emblem of the sweet benignity and long-suffering forbearance of Him, who innocently and meekly endured every insult and injury without a murmur-who allowed himself to be apprehended, condemned, buffeted, spit upon, scourged, crucified without one attempt at resistance, or one word of reproach
who was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth,' unless to implore forgiveness to his murderers.
Yet it is not so much to the lamb as a crea- | atone for guilt on earth; and now in heaven, in ture that the allusion is made, as to the lamb as the midst of the throne, beheld, beloved, adored a sacrifice. Now, no lamb was accepted for an as the Lamb slain. Was he manifested to take offering, unless it was free from all blemish; and away sins? Let us willingly part with ours, here then is an emblem of the spotless purity of never again to resume them, and dearly prize the Christ our paschal sacrifice-his birth immacu- purity he has purchased. His blood is the late, his life blameless- a lamb without blemish, source of all grace and all blessing; but let it be and without spot'-the Holy One of God, who despised, and it will become avenging blood, fulfilled all righteousness. calling down the fury of Him that sitteth upon the throne,' and kindling into fiercer indignation the wrath of the Lamb.'
It is this circumstance which imparted such virtue to his expiation, and rendered it so effectual for taking away sin. For that is the principal idea conveyed here, namely, the removing the imputation and punishment of guilt, by bearing it in his own person, and so taking it out of the way. He himself took on him our griefs and infirmities, and carried away our sicknesses and
sorrows. 'He his own self bore our sins in his own body upon the tree.' The very employment here of the figure of a sacrificial lamb shows clearly, that Christ takes away sin in some other way than merely by destroying its power through the effect of his precepts, and the influence of his example. If Christ's death was a real satisfaction for sin, then the ancient sacrifices were intelligible types of him; but if he saves only by the force of moral suasion, it is impossible to perceive any analogy between his death and that of the legal victims; and yet his own word expressly declares that they were all figures of him.
The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin,' 1 John i. 7.
WITHOUT shedding of blood is no remission.' Under the law all things were purged with blood. The expiatory sacrifices were always bloody, and in that did their value consist, for the life of the immolated victim was in the blood. By the blood of Christ' therefore is to be understood his vicarious sufferings and atoning death, which are uniformly represented as the ransom of the believer's soul, and the price of his eternal redemption.
It is the blood of Christ,' the Anointed of the Father, the Sealed of the Holy Ghost, the Messiah clearly promised, amply qualified, fully commissioned to execute the divine purposes of love in saving sinners with an everlasting salvation. To those who are in Christ there is no condemnation; and delivering them from sin's punishment, he at the same time rescues them from the power, the prevalence, the practice of iniquity; his blood cleanseth from all sin.
It is the blood of Jesus'-the name which is above every name. That name he bears because The Baptist's announcement declares unequi- he saves his people from their sins; and as he is vocally, that the blessed result of his substitution able to save unto the uttermost, his blood cleansand sacrifice would be the removal of sin. He eth from all sin. 'takes away sin,' even the sin of the world'not of Jews only (as their exclusiveness and bigotry might suggest) but of Gentiles also. 'He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.' But though his atonement be amply sufficient for all, and freely offered unto all, it does not follow that all are actually saved. For just as a remedy, however efficacious, can only heal those who employ it; as food, however wholesome, will only nourish those who partake of it; as a place of refuge, however capacious and secure, will only shelter those who flee to it' for safety-so the sin of those only is taken away by the Lamb of God who humbly receive him, by believing on his name.
'We have heard the witness of John.' If the voice of so great and good a man has any weight with us;—if the glory of his still greater Master is dear to us;-if we value our own soul's salvation-let us believingly behold, and joyfully embrace this Lamb of God, promised in the ancient oracles, sent in the fullness of time; sacrificed to
It is the blood of God's Son.' True it is, that the blood shed was the blood of his humanity, for his divinity could not suffer; yet was it his divinity that gave virtue and value to his sacrifice. It is not his blood as the Son of Man, which is the meritorious procuring cause of salvation, but his blood as he was the Son of God, the Son of the Blessed,-Himself God over all, blessed for evermore! Feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.'
And in what does the peculiar value and efficacy of his blood consist? It possesses a purifying virtue; it cleanseth from sin. This evidently
implies, that man being by nature defiled, stands | sciences from dead works to serve the living God? in need of cleansing. Sin is the soul's pollution. Having, therefore, these promises, let us cleanse. Originally created pure and spotless as its Maker, ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, it has lost his image, and is deeply sullied with perfecting holiness in the fear of God. the stains of iniquity. What is man that he should be clean, or he who is born of woman, that he should be righteous?' Pure, indeed, we may appear to be in our own esteem, for 'all the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but Jehovah trieth the spirits.' In the sight of that Holy One, who is of purer eyes than to behold evil, and who cannot look on iniquity, we are altogether filthy; yea, ‘though we wash ourselves as with snowwater, and make our hands never so clean, yet shall he plunge us in the ditch, and our own clothes shall abhor us.' The heavens are not clean in his sight. How much more abominable and filthy is man, who drinketh up iniquity like water? And as to any ability on our part to remove this pollution, who among us can say, ‘I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?' Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one. And, therefore, a new and divine influence is requisite to renew and purify the human soul; and it is for this end that a fountain has been opened in the house of David, and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness.
This blood cleanseth from sin in its guilt, and consequently delivers from its punishment. Satan accuses, conscience condemns, God frowns upon the transgressor; the law flashes its lightnings, and rolls its thunders. But we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.' Jesus having suffered, the law is satisfied, the punishment is remitted, the believer is absolved, God is reconciled, conscience is pacified, and Satan accuses in vain. To condemn a man who has been washed in the blood of the Lamb, would be contrary both to the justice and mercy of God; contrary to his justice, for he has accepted Christ's sacrifice as a ransom-contrary to his mercy, for it would be to punish one who, in the eye of law, has been found and declared innocent. But now being justified by Christ's blood, we shall be saved from wrath by him.'
This blood cleanseth from sin also in its pollution. If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Christ gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify us unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, sprinkling the unclean, sanctify to the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your con
This blood cleanseth from all sin-from sin of every kind. Men have often speculated regarding a fancied panacea or remedy for every disease to which the human body is subject. But what cannot be found for the body is to be found here for the soul. The blood of God's Son is a universal remedy-it cleanseth from all sin-from sin original and actual, sin personal and relative, sin private and public, sin of omission and of commission, sin of heart, speech, conduct. Jesus was delivered for our offences,' and there is no offence which his blood cannot wash away. The greatest wickedness ever committed by man was the murder of the Holy One and the Just; yet, even to his betrayers and murderers, was the gospel of reconciliation preached, and first preached too-beginning at Jerusalem;' and upon some of the very persons who madly exclaimed, His blood be on us, and on our children,' was that blood sprinkled, not as the blood of vengeance, but as the blood of peace. And as it cleanseth from all sin, however heinous and aggravated, so it cleanseth from all sins, however numerous. They may exceed, in multitude, the stars of the sky, or the sands of the sea, yet this most precious blood will remove their guilt from the conscience, their pollution from the heart, their love from the mind, their practice from the life.
This blood cleanseth from all sin-sin of every nation, Jew or Greek, barbarian or Scythian, bond or free. The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all. From every country, and kindred, and people, and tongue, shall the ransomed of the Lord be brought, and forming that glorious church which is the purchase of the Redeemer's blood, they shall be presented pure and faultless before the Redeemer's throne, not having spot or wrinkle, nor any such thing.
This blood cleanseth from all sin, sin of every period. It is not said merely that it had cleansed or will cleanse, but that it now cleanseth. Its efficacy is present and perpetual as well as universal. The fountain once opened has never once been shut, but continues to send forth its purifying streams to the ends of the earth. As there is ever a copious source of corruption in our hearts, so there is a constant inexhaustible flow of cleansing blood; it is never lost or congealed like the blood of the ancient sacrifices; it has been deprived of none of its virtue by the lapse of ages, but is, at this moment, as fresh 'as when it first was shed,'
nor will it cease to flow so long as there is a sin- ment. ner to be saved, or a sin to be forgiven.
Let the unholy and unclean flee without delay to this precious blood of sprinkling, and let saints who feel they are contracting daily habitual guilt, repair daily and habitually to the cleansing fountain; and so shall they be prepared at last for taking part in the sweet song: Unto him that loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood, be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.'
Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect?' Rom. viii. 33.
THE apostle supposes the judgment to be set, the books opened, and the accused summoned to the bar. But there appears among them those, whom the Judge has not only acquitted but approved-has selected as the chosen friends of his heart, the destined heirs of his glory-and who shall lay any thing to their charge? The various but indissoluble links in the golden chain which draws them up from earth to heaven, have been enumerated in a preceding verse; they are 'foreknown, predestinated, called, justified, glorified.'
'Being predestinated according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.' This fore ordination includes a destined conformity to the likeness of the first-born Son of God, and a consequent admission into God's family. Whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the first-born among many brethren. Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.' It takes in holiness as the way, and heaven as the end. They are chosen in Christ Jesus before the foundation of the world, that they should be holy;' they are 'ordained to eternal life.'
And because he loved them with an everlasting love, therefore with loving-kindness does he draw them. Whom he did predestinate, them he also called. He calls them indeed, in the first instance, as he does others, by the invitation to observe gospel ordinances, and to share in gospel blessings, for that is a call addressed to all who enjoy the means of grace. Yet though in this sense many are called, few are chosen ;' whereas with respect to God's foreknown and predestinated people, they are called, and chosen, and faithful.' In addition to the outward and (as regards the impenitent) ineffectual call of God's word, there is addressed to them the inThe whole had its source in the 'foreknowledge' ward, spiritual, effectual call of God's grace. of God with respect to them;-by which we are When Christ says to them as he said to Matthew to understand not simple prescience, for known the publican:Follow me,' they arise and obey unto God are all his works from the beginning the summons. Upon what grounds did Paul of the world,' nor the knowledge of bare dis- assure the Thessalonian Christians that he knew crimination, since all things that have been, and their election of God?' It was because the that are, that shall be, or that can be, are naked gospel had come to them, not in word only, but and open to the eternal eye of Him with whom in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much the past, and the future, are one continued ever-assurance." "God hath from the beginning present now. But God's knowledge of his people, whether from eternity or in time, implies a knowledge of special love, of peculiar complacency, of approbation and acknowledgment. The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his.' 'My sheep hear my voice, and I know them.' 'Does God cast off his people whom he foreknew?' No! for they are elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.'
Having thus been from eternity the objects of his free choice, they became the subjects of his predetermined purpose. Whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate. This marks the absolute sovereignty and infallible certainty of the divine decree, and points to the ultimate execution, in all its parts, of the divine appoint
chosen you to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth; whereunto he called you by our gospel. Who hath saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.'
Hence it is here asserted, that they are not merely invited to a participation of gospel blessings, but are admitted to their actual enjoyment. 'Whom he called, them he also justified.' A state of justification is opposed to a state of condemnation; it is to obtain at once forgiveness and acceptance, to be treated, not only as negatively guiltless, but as positively righteous, and consequently to pass from death unto life. It has its source in God's gratuitous favour-' being